Dungeons and Dragons and Conan The Barbarian seem a long way from the mysterious world of fencing, but that was how Georg Mittermair was drawn to the sport more than 30 years ago.
A former Australian champion, Mittermair will compete at the national fencing championships in Canberra, which started on Friday morning, and is one of the favourites for the veterans title after finishing seventh at the world veteran champs in Austria in October.
The 50-year-old will also compete in the open field, but his main goal was the veterans.
He represented Australia in the discipline of epee from 1985 to 1990 after he came across the sport at university.
Mittermair had developed a keen interest in Dungeons and Dragons and medieval swordcraft and the rest was history.
"There was an aspect [to Dungeons and Dragons] to heavier weapons and daggers which sort of intrigued me and before I left to go up to Sydney to study up there I'd crafted for myself a long sword out of an old pick-axe handle and showed it to one of my Dungeons and Dragons buddies who'd just happened to start fencing at that stage," he said.
"Thinking back it was probably quite foolish to be whacking around the back yard with weapons without masks and protective gear on, but we survived."
There are three disciplines of fencing: epee, foil and sabre.
The sabre derives from the cavalry and fighting on horseback, while the epee or rapier – a much sleaker sword – was developed for duelling.
Then the foil evolved for training.
All three disciplines are Olympic sports.
Mittermair likened fencing to an active form of chess.
He said it suited a range of physiques, from the quick-footed and nimble to the strong and broad-shouldered.
"I look at it a bit like chess in a way ... some strategies will work against an opponent and others won't," Mittermair said.
"It's knowing how to apply a strategy in a very fast time, that's what drew me to the sport."
More than 350 fencers have descended on Canberra for the five-day event, with 3000 bouts deciding who will be the Aussie champions in various categories.
Mittermair said fencers could face up to 12 bouts in a day.